So you graduated! You got a high school diploma, a funny hat — and a long list of new responsibilities. Before long, you'll be juggling the costs of food, school supplies, and your social life. To make sure all of this goes well, you may want to consider opening a checking and/or savings account.
These bank accounts are a simple way to manage all of the money you have coming in and going out. Read on to learn how checking and savings accounts work, why you may need them, and what you should know before opening them.
Checking accounts are all about access to your money. They provide a safe and convenient place to deposit your cash, checks and student loans, and enable you to easily withdraw your money when you need it. You can even do some of these transactions automatically — many employers offer direct deposit, and many banks allow you to use electronic payment tools like Zelle® to send money to and from your friends or family members.
Contrary to the name, checking accounts aren't just about writing checks: in addition to helping you manage your money, they can make it easier to track your day-to-day spending. And, while you can use them to write checks for things like paying rent, a debit card or mobile wallet linked to your account allows you to tap or pay on the go and get cash at an ATM.
However, there are two reasons why you may not want to keep all your money in a checking account. First, most checking accounts don't pay interest, so your money doesn't grow while it sits in your account. Second, because it is easy to access your money when it's in a checking account, it's easy to spend too much of it.
What's the solution? A savings account!
Like the name says, savings accounts are all about saving. You put money in the account and then leave it alone. Over time, your savings balance can earn interest.
Saving is a critical part of your financial life, and banks make it easy to do. For example, many banks offer automatic savings, in which they automatically put part of your paycheck into savings, or round up your checking account purchases to the nearest dollar, and put the difference into your savings account. These automatic savings tools allow you to "set it and forget it," so you save without even thinking about it.
Savings accounts don't offer as much access to your money as checking accounts. It is important to note that many banks charge a fee for withdrawals and transfers from a savings account. And while a debit card is not linked to a savings account to make purchases, one can be used to access funds at the ATM. While this makes it easier to save, it means you have to plan ahead when plotting out your monthly expenses.
Putting it together
You don't need to choose between a checking or savings account — in fact, many people combine the best aspects of both accounts. They can keep the money they need for expenses in their checking account, and put their additional money in savings, for long term goals. That way, they get the easy access of checking with interest that can come from savings.
This can be especially useful in college: many students get large deposits from their student loan providers or family members but don't use all the money at once. It makes sense to keep it in savings, where it can gain interest — and where it's harder to spend. When they have a big payment due for tuition, fees, or rent, they can transfer funds back from their savings to their checking account.
So what should you consider when choosing your accounts?
Are they convenient?
What's more convenient than having a bank branch around the corner? Being able to bank from your bed. Or your couch. While streaming TV. In your pajamas.
You get the idea.
Many banks have their own apps that you can access from your smartphone. Find out what you can do with the app from the bank you're considering. Can you access your account balances? Deposit a check? Report a stolen card? Locate ATMs? Does it connect to payment apps like Zelle®? A good banking app should be able to do all of that and more.
Will you have to pay a monthly service fee?
Many checking accounts have monthly service fees. There may be options to waive the monthly service fee if you meet certain requirements — like setting up direct deposit for your paycheck if you have a job. If you're a college student, look into opening a college checking account where the service fees may be waived while you're in school.
What overdraft protections are available?
You can overdraw your account when you make a purchase for an amount that is more than what you have available in your account. When choosing an account, look at the overdraft options that may be available to you and the costs associated with them. In addition, the bank may have other services to help you manage your money.
Luckily, most banks offer low balance alerts for checking accounts. You can set an alert for an amount like $50, and if your account goes below that threshold you get a text or email so you know you're running low, and can transfer money to cover your expenses.
So how do you open an account?
There are a few documents you will need to open a checking account whether it is online or in-person. Banks and other financial institutions may have different requirements. If you are a U.S. citizen or non-U.S. citizen residing in the U.S., here’s a list of a few documents you may need to open your account. However, check with your financial institution to determine what documents you will need.
Identification: This could be a valid:
- Government issued photo ID or driver’s license
- Social Security Card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
- Birth Certificate
Proof of Address: It must show your name and address of your residence. This could be a current and valid:
- Lease document
- Mortgage document
- Utility bill, bank statement or credit card statement
Opening Deposit: Check to see if your bank requires an opening deposit. If so, you can typically do so with:
- Debit card
- ACH Transfer
Application: To open a checking account you will likely need to complete an application for approval either in-person or online.